Friday, December 01, 2006

Reflections: My Time in the Blogging World

Film and photography have always been my life. My father's occupation in the industry has not only instilled in me a love of the medium, but has also keep me in contact with its latest issues. At first the idea of keeping a blog was intimidating since I have never been comfortable sharing my work with even the closest of friends let alone strangers, but the experience allowed me to become an instant authority figure in those subjects I hold so dear. That fact made me strive to "get" people to my site. The blog required many new things that paper essays just do not. My work needed a level of hypertextuality, and a consciousness of visual design in every post as well as in the over all blog. All which were new and unfamiliar to me. One detail of this blog that I feel I have excelled in is my fast exploitation of these items. I tried to use images as much as possible without overwhelming the page, and also chose a design that reflected this emphasis on the visual.

My essay on Jodi Cobb was definitely elevated by the visual characteristic of the site. It allowed me to choose photographs that most represented her contributions and talent. However my writing still relied on one person for its If there was one part of my posts that I would have worked harder on it would be my writing. You might be wondering how I could possibly say this about a writing course, but my posts were filled with numerous small errors that took away from my professionalism and authority. Even with these errors I was amazed that people took the time to respond to my stories. After posting about the consumer digital camcorder I received a comment that let me know how others feel about these products. After leaving a comment on a photographer's page about the perspective and angles in his photos, he took the time to thank me for my loaded comment; since most of the comments he receive only mark the physical beauty of what he captures. In essays two and three I learned how to formulate arguments for my readers. I chose topics that fit within the site's perimeters and highlighted the parts of these subjects that fit as well. Overall, my experience within the blogging world was an enlightening one, and I hope to keep the blogs (and the connections) coming for a long time!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Revealing the 21st Century Slaves: A Nomination for Jodi Cobb

Every year universities give out degrees to distinguished persons from around the globe. This practice gives universities the opportunity to reward outstanding citizens, and to provide students with role models that encompass the values of the institution. It brings these individuals into the school's community, allowing both the nominee and the school to benefit from one another. The University of Southern California is one of the many universities that follow this practice of conferring honorary degrees. It has bestowed awards on numerous distinguished persons in the last few years, including Neil Armstrong, Michael Eisner, and Barry Munitz. In consideration for the 2007 honorary degree in fine arts from the University of Southern California, I strongly urge the Office of the Provost to consider the distinguished photojournalist, Jodi Cobb, as a recipient. Not only does Jodi Cobb produce aesthetically pleasing images, but these images teach and call individuals into action for world issues. By reviewing Cobb's qualifications, contributions, and originality of her work; the connections between her and USC will constitute a perfect match.

Jodi Cobb is a supremely qualified person for an honorary degree from USC. Working as a staff photographer for National Geographic Magazine since 1977, she has traveled the world over for her craft. While she has worked on numerous articles and books with fantastic results, for example her book Geisha: the Life, the Voices, the Art, and article Saudi Arabian Women; it is her article "21st Century Slaves" that has had the biggest impact on the world. Her photos reveal the many types of modern slavery. Like women who have been sold into prostitution, and children sold into sweat shops or begging. Her work follows their struggle as they work off their "debt" to their owner, only to be sold off the moment they have. Described as the "defining story for the modern-day antislavery movement" by writer John Roach, this article slapped viewers with images of a practice that was thought to have ended in the times of President Lincoln. Cobb's article gave faces to the previously anonymous 27 million effected by this illegal trade, and has called numerous people to action against slavery through her compelling images. This aspect of her life is completely in tune with the Code of Ethics of the University of Southern California. Under the code, the lines, "we speak out against hatred and bigotry whenever and where ever we find them" and "we do not tolerate ...ill use of our fellow human beings" ring especially true in her work.

Jodi Cobb not only has produced wonderful work, but she has been readily recognized as well. She won the American Society of Media Photographers Award in 1996 for her Book Geisha: the Life, the Voices, the Art. She was also named a member of the United States Presidential Delegation to the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. Her photography has been in numerous exhibits including the International Center of Photography in New York, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, and she has been the subject for a retrospective that was exhibited in Steamboat, Colorado. Jodi Cobb involves herself in the advancement of photography. She teaches workshops about the technical and about aesthetics of photography around the United States. She lectures on the tragedy of modern slavery, and call attention to other issues she has come across in her travels.

There are many advantages and contributions that Jodi Cobb would make to the university by becoming an honorary degree holder. The first of these having to do with the university's appearance and notability. In his book Liberal Education and the Public Interest, author James O. Freedman notes that honorary degrees are "one way in which universities advertise themselves" (125). He also notes that in these "advertisements" universities can get a bit carried away, honoring mere celebrities, or just as often generous donors. Unfortunately it seems that the University of Southern California might be guilty of this practice. Alfred E. Mann, Wallis Annenberg and Andrew Viterbi are familiar, not necessarily for their works and goodwill, but for the schools within the university named after them. Freedman explains that, "the original purpose of honoring personal achievement has...some would say been blighted- by the institutional desires to flatter generous whom more relaxed standards are typically applied" (126). Jodi Cobb would help to steer the college away from this practice. This would allow students to see a true representation of the school's ethics and morals, not just the esteem placed on the monetary value of one's career with little regard to public works. Jodi Cobb is not quite a celebrity, yet her name would generate attention for the university. This is because of the nature of her profession. The name Jodi Cobb is not as recognizable as her work. It is her images that are extremely famous. However, world wide accomplishment is a requirement to the degree. The university states that one purpose is, "to elevate the university in the eyes of the world by honoring individuals who are widely known and highly regarded for achievements in their respective fields of endeavor" and as mentioned above, Jodi Cobb has been widely accredited within her field.

Freedman also points out that by honoring the professional, "bonds of friendship and mutual regard between the college and the recipient" are often forged and "in years that follow, honorands often are amenable to ...deliver speeches, appear at symposia, or meet with classes" (130). With this in mind, Jodi Cobb has a lot to offer USC through this relationship. Though her true work may be as a photographer, Cobb's travels have added many new aspects to her career. Her strength in photography would be useful to USC's School of Fine Arts, as well the School of Cinema and Television. She could recount her methods to capturing images that happen by chance. And since both photography and film have the same basic principles (measuring light, depth, framing, etc), both schools would benefit from her teachings. The bulk of Jodi Cobb's work is on "unknown" cultures, so her photography would be useful to students in the visual and cultural anthropology departments. Cobb would be able to recount the different cultures she has encountered (such as women from Saudi Arabia) or the different cultural ideals of beauty around the world. She would be able to help students understand techniques in gathering data in the field, as it is not often an easy task. In an interview for Nikon Cobb discusses the trouble she had putting together the images for "21st Century Slaves." She explained, "The slaves are a big investment to the slaveholders... They don't welcome a person with a camera." Her methods of managing to infiltrate into these types of areas would be extremely rewarding to the journalist student. Jodi Cobb's contribution potential is very large, expanding over many fields in the same way as her work.

Originality is key to the honorary degree. Described in the University of Southern California's honorary degree home page, the university requires nominators to answer the question: "What is original about [their] contribution?" So what makes Jodi Cobb's work unique? Many people like Jane Goodall, and film celebrities like Angelina Jolie, speak out against the injustices in the world. However, very few professions expand to cover others in the way that Cobb does. She is a photographer, an artist, a journalist, an anthropologist, and a philanthropist. What makes this truly unique is that it is encompassed in one career, in what Mike W. Martin, author of the book Meaningful Work: Rethinking Professional Ethics, considers, "role emphasis" (19). But unlike Martin's example of the physician who also takes an active role in medical research, Jodi Cobb's different emphases seem to mesh. On the same day, in the same picture we can see these different aspects.

These aspects can be seen in the picture shown above from the "21st Century Slaves" article. What is first noticeable is the image's over all beauty. It is sharp and the contrast of the small boy's skin to the rich black of his cage all add to a well constructed photograph. This is the photographer and the artist. The subject matter of the photo however, is what elevates it from being simply a great image. It is a boy in a cage from Cobb's "21st Century Slaves" article. So the viewers of the photo do not forget it, Cobb titles her work by describing its content. "In a Refugee Camp in Hong Kong, a Young Vietnamese Awaits Passage to a Free Life in the West," is the title of the above piece. This is the journalist, revealing to us what is actually happening in another part of the world. Her message is aided by the medium. Because of a photograph's inherent "realness," Cobb's work calls people into action in a way that others cannot. The medium also gives it another unique quality. Unlike work by Robert Zimeksis on film, Cobb's work can be understood be everyone. Her message is not obscured by the other aspects such as: narration, continuity, and direction. You don't need to understand science, math, or literature. You do not need an education to understand them because suffering is universal, and that message is what makes her work unique.

However in choosing Jodi Cobb as a recipient for an Honorary degree, one must accept the criticism that might accompany the choice. Some might say that although see does a great job reporting horrible truths like that of current slavery, Jodi Cobb does not seem to devote any personal time trying to help the victims. To this we must realize that her work is a great deal of personal time. Similar to Martin's description of Albert Schweitzer (philanthropist and philosopher) Cobb literally has to "make [her] life [her] argument", as she must travel, live, and probe, to be allowed access to these areas so they can be revealed to the world(18). Others, in review of her book, have accused Cobb of wrongly exploiting the geishas and the women of Saudi Arabia. To them her pictures are unflattering and demystify these women in negative ways. Most notably with the numerous pictures of geisha women in bath houses, smoking. This seems to go against one of the core ideals of USC's code of ethics that states the, "commitment to respecting the rights and dignity of all persons." However, in her interview with Nikon Jodi Cobb reveals," You start with one person at a time, tell [them] what you're doing. You have to be honest and upfront with people, and they either accept you or they don't. And if they don't, you move on. There's always another person." It is clear that these women were fully aware of Cobb's motives. If they wished not to be revealed in this way then they would have not agreed to participate. There has also been no criticism from the geisha community.

The central mission of the University of Southern California as explained by the site is accomplished through "teaching, research, artistic creation, professional practice, and selected forms of public service." Jodi Cobb is a unique nominee who fully embodies this mission through the enrichment of the human mind, and also professionally meets this role through the desired means. Through her photography she has taught thousands about mysterious society of the geisha, the horrifying truth behind modern slavery, as well as broad anthropological studies of beauty. Her work is a tremendous blend of research and art, and her articles has served as a public service to those caught up with in the slave trade. Jodi Cobb gives faces and names to the anonymous. It is for these reasons that Jodi Cobb should be honored and become part of the rich Trojan history.

Monday, September 25, 2006

A Bittersweet Life: A New Look to Film Promotion

Usually there is a traditional layout when it comes to film promotional websites. There are bells and whistles in the form of flash animations and beautiful graphics but most film sites are essentially the same. All of them have a synopsis, a trailer, still photos and character reviews. But how many have a fight clip where the only way to view it is to anticipate the moves of the main character using your computer's arrow keys? The site for the Korean film, A Bittersweet Life, has exactly that. This 2005 Webby Award nominee is upping the ante for film promotional websites. Through several facets such as the site’s interactive and visual design, it is adding new depth to the field. Following a format like that seen in other media genres (music, art, television) A Bittersweet Life's purpose is not simply to inform, entertain, or to persuade. Instead, its purpose is to sell a product (the movie), and the innovative qualties of this site enhance and help to do this. Its graphics, narration, and games will have people rethinking what to expect from their films.

The first area in which A Bittersweet Life has enhanced its appeal is through the site’s unique structure and the way one navigates within it. According to the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, a good website “allows you to form a mental model of the information provided, where to find things, and what to expect when you click.” A Bittersweet Life, however, does not follow this example. While most movie websites are made in a grid like pattern unabling users to form this "mental model", A Bittersweet Life is made to be read linearly. The first page gives the user two links titled, “A Sweet Life” and “Irreversible.” By clicking on either of these choices the page leads one through the plot of the movie. Each page reveals more of the story through games, with the whole site working like a giant complex preview for the film. This distinctive layout has the advantage of heightening the user's emotions. Take the first page for example (image above). The main character, Sun-Woo, sits in a chair with a rather heavy expression on his face. On either side are the two links. Even though it is the visitor that decides which link to click, the structure and placement of the links gives the illusion that the two choices are weighing on Sun-Woo himself. This adds drama and anticipation to the visitor’s choice, as it stresses the importance of the choice to the story. If these links had been placed elsewhere, say at the top of the page, they would not have the same effect. Just the same, by creating this dramatic effect, it seems fitting, even necessary, not to know where these links will take you. That way, the anticipation for each new page will mirror that of a movie.

For some, this layout can be frustrating. The whole site was made on Macromedia Flash Player so individual pages do not have individual URLs. In order to return to a particular page, one has to go through the entire site till they reach what they want. The Web Style Guide reflects on this flaw stating that sites can have, "complex tables, large graphics, and technologies such as Flash [as A Bittersweet Life does], but these pages need to come with an equivalent, accessible version." Which this site does not. A Bittersweet Life might also seem extremely time consuming to someone searching for a particular, like a still photo or a trailer. However, this site is not without the film essentials. Along the bottom of the player, out of the way of the main page is a tool bar. This bar takes the visitor away from the linear structure, to a more familiar grid like approach to the film. It is here that the only real text about the movie can be read. Also found are character breakdowns, reviews, and other useful things that one would expect at a movie site. But these features are pushed to the side in a display of visual hierarchy. The rather isolated position of the tool bar compared to the overwhelmingly large space reserved for the main page suggests that these tools are more of a formality. However, it is a smart decision to open up the web site to be more accessible to the different needs of people. These pages are rich in text, and anyone who cannot sit through the games can find refuge in them. The director's page is particularly enlightening, as it not only has a biography about the man, but it goes into his vision and influence of noir in a DVD extra-like fashion. But, as should be expected with translation, there are several spelling and grammar mistakes within the text that must be overlooked to truly enjoy the information the pages provide. The pages of the toolbar, like the rest of the site, do not have individual URLs making these pages only slightly less frustrating to retrieve.

The second way A Bittersweet Life has added depth to their page is through the wonderful use of visual design. IADAS states that good visual design will be “more than just a pretty homepage “ and that it “communicates a visual experience and may even take your breath away.” The key words here are “visual experience", as A Bittersweet Life takes this idea seriously, providing not only stunning images, but images that help to define the film itself. When looking at the previous example, the image at a deeper glance is filled with information that provides insight into the story. Examining Sun-Woo once again, we find in front of him a gun and a photo. If we divide this screen in half, the side with the gun has a completely different appearance than the side with the photo. The side of the gun looks like a dingy monochrome bathroom (complete with a body on the floor), while the other looks tidy(though not elegant) and is filled with much more vibrant color. It might not be a surprise then that this imagery is connected to the story behind each of these links. The link “A Sweet Life” reveals that Sun-Woo is assigned to spy on his boss's young girlfriend, hence the photo and the large display of the surveillance equipment. “Irreversible” reveals the group of “ex-friends-turned-rivals” whom Sun-Woo has to fend off to stay alive. The gun, the dingy state of the room, plus the body in the corner all have meaning pertaining to that part of the story. Almost every page of the site is packed with visual signals such as this, and accorrding to the Web Style Guide, "highly graphical pages risk disappointing the user by offering a poor balance of visual sensation, text information, and interactive hypermedia links." Image quality in A Bittersweet Life is so great that slower computers have a hard time loading the pages. Every one is jammed with information, so it is highly likely that much of it will be overlooked as viewers search for the balance mentioned earlier.

The sound design of the site adds depth through its audio cues. A Bittersweet Life works beyond the definition of audio in the Web Style Guide which states that "audio simply delivers information", and completely beyond the IADAS (which never mentions sound). The music of the site works well to heighten emotion on every page. It creates tension in situations where visuals alone would not have sufficed. For example, a particular page requires the user to click on swirling black boxes to reveal the movements of Sun-Woo in a hotel. It is not a particular exciting game, yet the intensity of the activity is heightened by the audio. Each time the visitor to the site clicks on a one of the swirling boxes, it makes a sound best described as a large "clunk" that lets the player know there is no turning back. The audio is what foreshadows the conflict of the next page, similar to a movie preview that uses sound to draw viewers into the plot of the movie. However, sometimes the site's use of audio can be jarring. When first directed to the page the viewer is prompted to pick between the Korean or English site. Right after choosing, a very loud gunshot rings out and a gun is pointed out towards the viewer with it barrel smoking. This loud effect is such a shocking difference from the serene and quiet homepage that it might send people running (or clicking) to get away from the source.

The biggest feature of A Bittersweet Life that sets it apart from other film sites is its interactive design. Instead of merely reading the synopsis, this site allows people to become part of the story. The Web Style Guide states that entertainment sites such as this must grab audience attention instantly, since the audience in general is less focused than others and will simply “hop away somewhere else.” And grab this site does. As mentioned before, the site presents the story in a linear fashion. What was not said is that this linear story is actually an interactive game. By completing each mini-game, more of the plot and the character’s traits are revealed. One of the more revealing and thoughtful interactions, is between Sun-Woo and his boss’s young girlfriend. When Woo is assigned to surveillance her activities, the site directs viewers to a page with a large Russian Matryoshka doll in the center. Then, it prompts them to start removing the layers of the doll. Each time a new layer is revealed, the life of the young woman is also revealed. These games help to intensify emotion much the same as the structure and sound design of the site.

These games turn a spectator in to a participant in the story. In another game, Sun-Woo has been threatened. He must apologize or else, he is told, something horrible will happen to him. The game is to spell out the words "I'm sorry" before the time runs out. The photo shows how far one can go. There is no second "r". A video clip streams to the side of the game. It shows the enemy grabbing a knife and preparing Woo’s punishment. The next few minutes play on the nerves while figuring out how to apoligise. It is at the last second that the site reveals what should be spelt instead (“get lost”), finally releasing the tension the game had caused. This part of the plot is extremely effective as a game, since it allows for the connection of the emotion it caused to the movie itself. If this scene had not been presented in the same way, it would not have been so unnerving.

Tideland is another site nominated for a Webby that also has an interactive design. Yet when compared to A Bittersweet Life, the two sites are very different. Tideland's interactivity in comparison is restricted. The site is given in a grid layout, with a central page that can navigate to all the necessary information. Tideland's interactivity lies in the method that one moves through this central page. Instead of simply listing the links, the site has turned the central page into a first person maze. The visitor is the one that moves themselves through the page to seek out the different pages. But once they navigate away from the central page, this interactivity is gone. In A Bittersweet Life the interactivity is an everlasting presence. Each page (besides the toolbar) provides a different way for everyone to relate to the movie in a personal and connected way. However, this level of interactivity comes with major drawbacks. "You risk losing your audience if you require them to jump through hoops to view your content" according to the Web Style Guide. Due to the size of the images and the complexity of the games, only the fastest of computers can view the site properly without compromising its functionality. Otherwise, more time is spent waiting for everything to load rather than playing the games. Some users will be jumping through hoops. Another flaw in the site's design is that so much effort was placed in making the games look great that some of the transitional effects are lacking. With better transitional graphics and smaller game and image sizes, this site would be even more enjoyable than it already is.

The last category in which the Webby Awards are judged is overall experience. They explain that "one has probably had a good overall experience if (s)he comes back regularly, places a bookmark... or stays for a while intrigued." Beyond all the innovative use of interactivity, rich images, thoughtful structure, and flaws; A Bittersweet Life is a site where one should plan to stay for hours. Many web-goers might object to the violent content of the film. But while some of these people can not be solaced, the imagery on the site is always tasteful and never overly or unnecessarily groteseque. This hints that the movie will treat this violence in the same way. In the end, A Bittersweet Life uses all of its qualities to provide guests with enough information to send them into the theater. Hopefully there will be enough seats!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Power of Images: How Pictures can Speak Louder than Words

In a community college English class, I was instructed to write an essay on the meanings that can be found in photographs. Our class was given images such as the Starving Sundanese Child Being Stalked by a Vulture (shown above) and asked to note, not only the technical aspects of the images, but also on how these techniques comment on current issues through their use of symbolism. It is because of this critical analysis that my love for photography grew as I began to understand that an image is often more persuasive than a written argument. There is a certain "realness" and emotion that can be found in photographs which essays do not possess. So instead of the normal tone of my posts, I thought it would be fitting to explore the world of photo blogs to investigate the basic element of a photographer/ cinematographer... The image.

Here on the internet, there is no shortage of photography. Professionals and ameteurs alike use the web to get their voice out into the public eye. Using Technorati, a search engine for blogs, I was able to narrow my search and find two excellent sites that exhibit the qualities mentioned above. The first, Beirut Daily Photo, offers a different perspective on the effects of war (Click here for my comments on the page). The second, Barcelona Daily Photo, shows how technique in shooting an image can determine peoples standpoint on a issue (like propaganda...Click here for my comments on the page).

Both of the sites did not allow for hypertextual links on their comment pages so here are some refeneces that might be useful:

Raad 2
Current War Images of Hate

Monday, September 11, 2006

Are Consumer Digital Cameras Really Preparing the Next Generation of Filmmakers?

The idea of the digital revolution is not a new concept. For years, digital products have been tested, sold, and then redesigned to keep up with the progressing technology. Now, high-quality digital consumer cameras are available to anyone who can afford the moderate price tag. Part of the marketing of these new cameras is that they allow anyone to create a decent image with mostly automated functions that have glorified the "“point-and-shoot" method of filming. This advancement in technology has helped many aspiring storytellers get their ideas out into the mainstream. Consequently, the dependence on an instant image has given amateur filmmakers a false sense of security and the misconception that a cinematographer is unnecessary.

When examining a line of consumer cameras available from Panasonic there are many similarities between the models. Each camcorder comes equipped with a L.C.D. monitor, an image stabilizer, and the guarantee of a "“quick and easy" shoot. The L.C.D. monitor allows the filmmaker to see exactly what image will be captured by the camera. A user can turn dials and push buttons until they like what they see, without any knowledge of what those dials and buttons actually do. The image stabilizer has an equally convenient purpose, creating a fixed image even when the camcorder is handheld. Digital cameras on the professional level, however, are not made with the same convenience in mind. They are designed much like film cameras, exploiting different variables to create many ways of viewing a single scene. If not familiar with the aperture, focus, speed, and lens of the camcorder (all of which are automated on consumer versions), operators will lose all of the precious time and money they have saved by using digital instead of film. But even background knowledge is not enough. The variables that are used by cinematographers in film are the same in digital; however digital photography has a different set of properties that make it, in some ways, harder than film to master.

Each camera has an optimum aperture, for example. Cinematographers know they must stay close to this setting for best picture quality. Most film cameras have an optimum aperture, or lens speed, between T1.2 to T2.2. Yet, digital camcorders, such as Panasonic's AJ-HDC27H model, have an optimum aperture of T12. At this higher setting, depth of field is very sharp, which can provide many problems creatively when trying to direct audience attention. Everything will remain in focus. A talented and knowledgeable cinematographer is needed to overcome this set back successfully. Because of the sharpness provided by depth of field, the image created by a digital camera will appear flatter and more two dimensional than 35mm. Here, cinematographers are needed to create the illusion of three dimensional space through creative lighting, color, and prop placement. Film cameras have a much larger light latitude than digital, so camcorders are much more sensitive to light. Extreme highlights, easily captured on film, must be professionallynally measured and planned for the prefered outcome.The work of cinematographer, Robert Rodriguez (Once Upon A Time in Mexico), is a great example of these elements coming together (see above).

There are so many different aspects and variables that go into making an image. Aperture, lens, and camera speed all have a huge impact. Current consumer products are great for home video, but the easy automated settings keep amateurs from learning the basic filmmaking. Throughrough the "point-and-shoot" method, they are not able to learn the tools to work at a professional level. Digital filmmaking has proved to be a challenge even for the professional, and consumer products are increasing this challenge through lazy (or "quick") film capture settings.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Our Reputation is NOT Enough: Why Productions are Running Away from California

From its beginning, California has been at the heart of the motion picture industry. The studio system of the 1950s solidified the state, more specifically Los Angeles, into a powerhouse of studio and location filming. Ever since then, Hollywood has stood for the glamour and abundance of film. Yet during the past decade, California has slowly been losing its place at the top of the industry as an increased amount of states are now offering incentives (in the form of tax cuts and rebates) towards film productions, luring films away with the hope of a better budget. And California is hardly remaining competitive.

These incentives, which range from tax credits when $250,000 is spent (Arizona), to interest-free loans up to 15 million dollars (New Mexico), leave California outdated, whose policies seem only to have recently added fee-free filming on state property. And while groups such as the PGA are constantly lobbying towards the establishment of such an incentive here, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's office claims that California could not support it due to financial pressures. But by not supporting and implementing such a program, California is losing more revenue and jobs that productions would provide, forcing them to other states where locations and budgets are more feasible.

In addition to California's lack of incentives, it has also seen a dramatic drop in the amount of sound stages available to productions. Only one of the large Studios from the 50s era remains intact, while all others have sold their back lots. Working at 90% capacity, even Universal has hired developers, and is in the midst of deciding whether or not to keep their 30 sound stages open for use. And while other studios do boast of multiple stages, they do not have the space needed for large feature productions. Because of availability and space, productions are being forced to use old airplane hangers and warehouse buildings... or go out of state. Using lar
ge empty buildings puts added pressure on production, as these bigger facilities were not designed for filming. The Vice President of Operations for Downey's Studios admits, "You don't have power and you don't have support like props, painters, and the commissary, so you're bringing everything in." Without the addition of new, up-to-date facilities, California is practically pushing production and the revenue they bring out the door.

Groups such as Film LA have recently been created by filmmakers in the Los Angeles area. These groups have taken initiative and made processes such as appling for permits easier and more accessable to anyone. They also provide forums, and updates on productions and their policies. Their goal: keep production in the area. But unfortunately, this is not enough. In order to continue to be at the top of the industry, California needs to recognize that a well trained crew base and reputation will only help the state for so long. The persistant lure of other states' facilities and incentives will slowly drain away both of these resources as workers travel to find jobs.